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The Visitor

The Visitor

4.5 12
by Sheri S. Tepper

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The "magic" that once was America died horribly along with most of the Earth's inhabitants when an asteroid crashed into the planet sometime during the twenty-first century. Hundreds of years have passed, and all that remains of the time before are fragmented memories distorted by superstition -- as a tragically reduced populace suffers greatly under the tyranny of


The "magic" that once was America died horribly along with most of the Earth's inhabitants when an asteroid crashed into the planet sometime during the twenty-first century. Hundreds of years have passed, and all that remains of the time before are fragmented memories distorted by superstition -- as a tragically reduced populace suffers greatly under the tyranny of a repressive ruling order. But destiny has chosen Dismé Latimer to lead a wasted world out of the darkness ... with a book. Written by a courageous scientist ancestor, it is a sacred, unsettling tome rife with disturbing ideas and revelations ... and an impossible hope that compels a gentle, troubled young woman to abandon her abusive home in search of truth and her true self. But common "wisdom" and lore warn of grave dangers out in the world. Evil is there, a malevolence beyond imagining. And in the depths of the Earth, a gargantuan beast asleep for centuries has begun to stir ...

Editorial Reviews

bn.com review
The Barnes & Noble Review
Sheri S. Tepper's The Visitor takes place on Earth centuries after an asteroid has turned the planet into a wasteland. Sure it sounds familiar, it's been done countless times before, but this is so much more than an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it novel. As usual with all Tepper stories, this is packed with deep, consciousness-raising material. After reading The Visitor, you will never look at religion, spirituality, or prayer the same way again.

Before the mysterious asteroid hits Earth, a group of scientists hide in impregnable shelters deep underground and goes into suspended animation. Centuries later, the scientists awaken and try to offer guidance to their descendants in the form of the mythical Guardian Council.

Tepper continues to amaze me with her work. Her writing is so vivid and fluid it's almost poetic, yet at the same time philosophical and thought provoking. And if you enjoy this novel -- which I'm sure you will -- I highly recommend her earlier works Raising the Stones, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and The Family Tree. (Paul Goat Allen)

Publishers Weekly
Known for her thoughtful and sensitive exploration of such subjects as religion, politics and familial relationships, Tepper (The Fresco) here weaves two stories into an intriguing, and frequently chilling, vision of the future. After the mysterious deaths of her brother, her father and her stepmother, Dism Latimer is left to the disdainful care of her ambitious older stepsister, Rashel. In a world where the ruling Regime regards questioning authority as un-Regimic, the government trades with demons for precious technology. Admitting to the existence of magic can get you "bottled" in a living death. Dism must tread lightly particularly after Rashel gains a high post as conservator of the famed Faience Museum, once home to one of the last practitioners of magic. Magic disappeared, history says, during the Happening, a cataclysm so lost in time that no one knows exactly what happened no one except astronomer Nell Latimer, Dism 's many-times-great-grandmother, and a handful of hidden survivors who strive to keep science and learning from being lost forever. As Dism strives to understand and disguise her growing magical abilities from Rashel and the Regime, Nell and her colleagues prepare for the worst: the Visitor who caused the global wreckage of the Happening is on the move again, getting closer to their hidden redoubt every day, threatening to finish the job it started millennia ago. Once again Tepper has created a mesmerizing story full of intriguing characters, resonant images and powerful themes. (Apr. 1) FYI: Tepper's work has been nominated for both Hugo and Edgar awards. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Disme Latimer is an orphan, tyrannized by an evil stepmother and stepsister who deprive her of her heritage. Her rigid, corrupt society is ruled by a bureaucracy that keeps its people in line through a systematic and legally sanctioned use of torture, as its leaders pursue the black arts in their quest for power. Disme secretly possesses a forbidden book, the memoir of her ancestor, Nell Latimer, who was a scientist at the time of The Happening. A thousand years earlier, an asteroid (the "Visitor") hit Earth, nearly wiping out the human race and causing huge changes in geography and climate. Disme's world is a dark universe complete with magic, spirits, and portents, while Nell's is our own civilization, in which the truths of science still vie with humanity's preference for superstition. The interesting question of how Nell's world evolved into Disme's-and how the two come together, finally, in an apocalyptic confrontation of good and evil-is gradually answered, but not without some serious challenges to readers. There are disconcerting shifts between Disme's horror story and Nell's science-fiction tale; the future universe is teeming with complexities, and the story itself presents several new puzzles for each revelation. Tepper puts readers through a harrowing catalog of human evils, but this is the point-to name these evils, examine them, and discover how to overcome them. Disme, Nell, and their friends are resourceful and appealing heroes and their world is peopled with a very believable mix of ethically complicated beings.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Challenging new speculative fiction from the accomplished author of The Fresco (2000), etc. A millennium after an asteroid smashed into the Earth, destroying civilization and remaking the face of the globe, a strange new world has arisen. Central to forthcoming events will be downtrodden Disme Latimer, kept as a virtual slave by her baneful stepsister Rashell, the latter a thrall of the devilish Hetman Gone. Disme has odd abilities: she sees "pings," weird spatial doorways; eerie, wraithlike "ouphs"; and fearsome horned demons. Years ago, the mysterious Guardian Council distributed magical machines to facilitate the transformation of a chosen few into the Appointed Ones. Now these machines have activated. At Bastion, the cruel, ambitious General Gowl has made a pact with a dreadful devil-like entity called the Rebel Angel that feeds on agony; now it urges the General to conquer the world. Disme owns an ancient book, the journal of astronomer Nell Latimer, who, with her colleagues, survived the asteroid strike in suspended animation, and presently watches developments via the pings with great interest. Clearly, the impactor was not just an asteroid but also some sort of habitat bringing a variety of alien creatures to Earth-including an angelic lesser god whose task is to offer humanity one last chance to prove itself worthy. And all this merely hints at the characters and ideas packed away here. Fascinating hypercomplexities, stylistically reminiscent of Tepper's earlier works (1993's A Plague of Angels, etc.), admirable but heavy and definitely on the gloomy side.

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Chapter One

Dismé the Child

Deep in the night, a squall of strangled brass, a muted trumpet bray of panic: Aunt Gayla Latimer, wailing in the grip of nightmare — followed shortly by footsteps.

"Papa?" Dismé peered sleepily at her door, opened only a crack to admit her father's nose, chin, one set of bare toes.

"It's Aunt Gayla having the Terrors, Dismé. Just go back to sleep." He turned and shuffled up the attic stairs to be greeted by Roger, Dismé's older brother. Mumble, mumble.

"Val?" A petulant whine from Father's room.

Voice from upstairs. "Go back to sleep, Cora."

Corable the Horrible, said a voice in Dismé's head. Cora Call-Her-Mother.

"But she's not my mother," Dismé had said a thousand times.

"Of course not. But you call her mother anyhow. All little girls need a mother." Papa, over and over.

Fresh howls of horror from Aunt Gayla's room.

"Can't anybody shut that old bitch up?" A slightly shriller whine, from the room that had once been Dismé's and now belonged to Rashel, Call-Her-Mother's daughter, already growing into a faithful copy of her mother.

Dismé pulled the blanket around her ears and rolled an imaginary pair of dice. Odds or evens: go back to sleep or wait to see what happened. Gayla's affliction had developed into an every-third-night ordeal. Her nephew and great nephew, Val and Roger Latimer, provided solace whileCall-Her-Mother and Rashel offered commentary. Dismé had no part in the ritual. If she got involved, it would only make it worse.

The clock in the hallway cleared its throat and donged, three, four, five...Dismé emerged from the blanket, eyes relentlessly opened by the scuffle-shuffle overhead as Roger went from Aunt Gayla's attic room to his own, and father came down the stairs, back to bed.

If everyone else was asleep, Dismé would stay up! She dressed herself in the dark, went furtively down the stairs and into the back hall, past the pre-dawn black of the gurgling, tweeping bottle room, out along the tool shed, and through the gate into a twisty adit between blank-walled tenements. Aunt Gayla wasn't the only one with night terrors, for the night was full of howls, each one bringing a suitable though impotent gesture of aversion from Dismé. She was only practicing. Everyone knew sorcerous gesticulation had no power left in it. All magic had been lost during the Happening, and no amount of arm waving or chanting would do any good until The Art was regained. Which meant no surcease for Aunt Gayla, though Dismé daren't show she cared.

"We wouldn't want the Regime to punish Gayla for your behavior, would we, Dismé?" Cora the Horrible.

"Why would the Regime do that?" Dismé, outraged.

"Those who have the night terrors are more likely to get the Disease," said Call-Her-Mother.

"Those who have the Disease affect others around them, they get un-Regimic," echoed Rashel. "Dismé, you're un-Regimic!"

"Since children do not become un-Regimic by themselves, they will search for the person who influenced you. Since Rashel is Regimic, they will not blame me," so Call-Her-Mother summed it up with a superior smile. "They will blame Aunt Gayla!"

Or Father. Or Roger. If the Regime was going to blame people she loved just because Dismé couldn't figure things out, better keep love a secret. It was hard to do, even though True Mother used to say making the best of a bad situation was a secret way of getting even.

"Secret pleasures," True Mother had whispered, "can be compensation for a good many quotidian tribulations!" True Mother had loved words like that, long ones that rolled around in your mouth like half dissolved honey-drops, oozing flavor. It was True Mother who had introduced Dismé to the secret pleasure of early mornings as seen from the ruined tower on the western wall, where a fragment of floor and a bit of curved wall made an aerie open to the air.

On her way to the wall, Dismé made up an enchantment:

"Old wall, old wall,
defender of the Spared
lift me up into your tower,
and let me see the morning."

In the solitude of the alley no one could hear her, so she sang the words, a whisper that barely broke the hush. All the schoolchildren in Bastion were taught the elements of sorcery, and Dismé often imagined what might happen if she suddenly got The Art and said some marvelous enchantment by accident!

She began to embellish the tune, only to be stopped by a sound like a tough fingernail flicking against a wineglass. Only a ping, but pings did not stay only! Dismé turned her face away and hurried, pretending she had not heard it. No use. Before her eyes, the dark air spun into a steely vortex of whirling light with a vacancy at the center which was the ping itself. It made her head hurt to look at it, and she averted her eyes as a voice from nowhere asked, "What are you thinking?"

If she lied, it would ask again, more loudly, and then more loudly yet until she answered truthfully or someone came to fetch her. Since being out alone in the dark was forbidden, being fetched by anyone was a bad idea. She had to tell the truth. If she could decide what it was!

"I was thinking about my father..." she ventured. She thought she had been thinking of him, though the ping had driven all thoughts away for the moment.

"What about him?"

"About...about his book." It was true! She had thought of it, not long ago.

"What book is that?" asked the ping.

"One written by his ancestor."

"What does it..."

The Visitor. Copyright © by Sheri Tepper. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sheri S. Tepper is the author of more than thirty resoundingly acclaimed novels, including The Waters Rising, The Margarets, The Companions, The Visitor, The Fresco, Singer from the Sea, Six Moon Dance, The Family Tree, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Shadow's End, A Plague of Angels, Sideshow, and Beauty; numerous novellas; stories; poems; and essays. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Visitor 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read and own almost everything Sheri Tepper has written and this is one of my favorites. She takes the old theme of an apoclolyptic future and makes it new again. This book also reminds me of some of her older work such as Grass and Northshore/Southshore in that she is not quite so 'preachy'. I always enjoy her work but some books can be a bit too 'man--society--technology' bashing. This one is not. She is also the queen of foreshadowing--no one does it better. Nothing is worse than an author that hints but never explains coherently or logically. Sheri keeps us guessing but lets the pieces fall into place. I am never frustrated because I don't have them all yet--I can just enjoy the story. The book IS dark but hopeful too. An excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was hooked from beginning to end. This is the first book that I have read written by this author. Looking forward to more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked this story. It was different from the usual offerings
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colorsplash7 More than 1 year ago
My favorite Sheri S Tepper book...worth at least 2 readings. Maybe even more!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay, currently I am incapable of normal thought, and am thusly using grandiloquent phrasings coupled with random shouting sessions and Japanese language quirks because it is Christmastime and I'm having a huge Mr. Goodbar. PINEAPPLE! Sorry. orz Anyways, I couldn't have picked a better book to spend the first of my gift card on if one claiming to be better slapped me in the face. And I am not sure if I've read 100 pages of the 400-odd pages there are. It gets confusing a tad at first, but then things start clicking. ^u^ BAI AI EHM AHFF TU RIID TEH BUUK TAHT IZ EPIK! ^•^"